Crater crushes Silverton with first-quarter barrage in playoff opener
CENTRAL POINT — No state playoff experience on the Crater football sidelines? No problem.
Chomping at the bit to serve notice that this collection of Comets is unlike any in recent years, Crater struck quickly and convincingly Friday night to put Silverton on its heels en route to a 45-0 rout in the opening round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
The second-seeded Comets needed less than 10 minutes to build a 28-0 advantage against the Foxes, last year’s state runner-up, and forced a running clock when the lead ballooned to 45 points with 3:35 to go in the third quarter.
Crater (10-0) will host Central in the state quarterfinals next Friday. The seventh-seeded Panthers (7-3) beat Hillsboro, 46-28, in the first round.
“We just put the pedal to the floor and kept it down the whole time,” said Crater senior Garret Dey. “We weren’t going to let up. That was the game plan, we were just going to let it down and keep it down.”
Offensively, Crater racked up 479 total yards and was especially efficient in a first-quarter scoring avalanche against Silverton (5-5). Defensively, the Comets limited the Foxes to 62 yards of total offense in the first half and 174 overall with five forced turnovers, including two interceptions and one fumble recovery by senior Shaine Lukkes.
“We gave it our best,” said Silverton head coach John Mannion. “Things kind of got away from us, but it was caused by them. They won the game fair and square. I think they’ll go a long way, they’re a competitive group.”
Not bad for a squad that failed to make the playoffs last year and had only a couple current players in uniform when the Comets lost to top-seeded Jesuit in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs in 2013. In fact, Friday’s victory was the first in the state playoffs since Crater topped Hermiston, 31-14, in 2009 before falling in the 5A quarterfinals to Sherwood, 51-14.
“This is the first postseason game we’ve played in a while and first one as a group, to be honest, so we just came out so fired up for this,” said Crater senior quarterback Matt Struck. “Our plan was to knock the wind out of them and that’s what we accomplished in that first couple series.”
Dey helped set the tone for the Comets with a pair of clutch third-down receptions, the first on a 37-yard grab on Crater’s opening drive and the second on a spectacular diving catch for a 21-yard gain on the second series.
“Our whole team is about effort and Garret really showed it by diving and putting his body on the line and going extra effort to get the ball,” Struck said of the highlight reel moment. “That really sparked all of our drives, honestly. He had a great game.”
Dey finished with four catches for 115 yards and one touchdown, while Struck was 21-for-30 passing for 335 yards, two TDs and one interception. Struck passed for 229 yards in the first half alone.
After Dey’s first grab put the ball at the Silverton 23-yard line, senior Cavin Gillispie took over from there when he dashed left and raced untouched into the end zone just 79 seconds into the contest. Gillispie finished with 120 yards on 16 carries.
Gillispie shouldered the early load on Crater’s second series before Dey took matters into his own hands on a third-and-10 play and stretched out airborne for a catch that landed the Comets at the Silverton 13-yard line.
“I can’t even believe that,” Dey said of his diving grab. “That’s all credit to the big man upstairs right there. That was just crazy, I’m blessed.”
Four plays later, Struck scored on a 3-yard keeper for a 14-0 advantage.
Then the snowball really started rolling down hill against the Foxes.
A three-and-out by Silverton was followed by a 26-yard completion from Struck to Jake Ireland and then a 32-yard scoring strike to Dey for a 20-0 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
Two plays later, the ball was knocked loose from Silverton’s Noah Dahl and Gillispie pounced on it for a fumble recovery at the Foxes’ 39. After a 28-yard connection from Struck to Spencer Cyr, Struck ran to paydirt from 4-yards out and a two-point pass to Ireland made it 28-0 with 2:10 left to go in the first quarter.
“I thought our line gave Matt some good time and our receivers made some great catches, some clutch catches,” said Crater head coach John Beck of the fast start. “It seems like in big games we play better against the better competition. We just come out firing and hot and going on all cylinders.”
On Silverton’s second play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, freshman quarterback Levi Nielsen was intercepted for the first time by Lukkes and that eventually set up a 38-yard field goal by senior Jason Santoni for a 31-0 lead 1½ minutes into the second quarter.
That score held up for the remainder of the first half but Crater picked up where it left off to open the third quarter when Cyr leaped for an interception on Silverton’s opening possession. Six plays later, Struck rifled a pass to sophomore Bailee Robles for a 13-yard TD to make it 38-0.
Crater capped the scoring 4½ minutes later when Cedric Rios blocked a punt attempt by Ian Woolsey deep in Silverton territory and fellow senior Tommy Winningham fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown.
The early deficit put a crimp in Silverton’s plans to try and pound away at the Comets with a running game that had been spearheaded by junior Perry Davis but was completely bottled up by Crater’s swarming defense. Davis finished with 12 yards on eight carries before being lost to injury on the first drive of the second half and the Foxes managed only 61 yards on 29 attempts overall. Nielsen was 9 of 22 passing for 113 yards and three interceptions.
“They’re a good team and hat’s off to them,” said Mannion of the Comets. “They’re a physical group. I think that was the biggest difference tonight, they’re a very physical team. I wish them luck moving forward. The best team won tonight.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry